Black Sun: Rules
February 01, 2006
Black Sun is a custom-made hex boardgame, made earlier this year. This is one of a set of three posts about the game.
These are the rules for the boardgame Black Sun. There is still some shakedown going on
with this game, so these should not necessarily be considered final. If you
are consumed by temporary insanity and build your own Black Sun set, feel
free to play how you like!
I will start with the rules as they appear on the reference cards, then go into further detail.
1. Place Sun
2. Add all 3 Gas Giants to 5 Space hexes
3. Lay out 6 of 8 in a ring around the Sun
4. Use Space hexes to move Gas Giants 2 away
Moving the first Gas Giant
After moving all Gas Giants
5. Shuffle all Planets with 6 Asteroids & 15 Space Hexes
6. Deal to fill a 5-wide hex pattern
After the inner ring of 6 hexes is added
After the outer ring 12 of hexes is added
7. Add 5 hexes to complete each Gas Giant’s orbit
Five hexes added to one Gas Giant's orbit
All hexes added to Gas Giant orbits
If any Gas Giant has no planets added:
8. Roll dice (re-roll if no Planet
9. Replace Planet rolled with Space hex
10. Shuffle Planet into hexes from Gas Giant’s orbit and redeal
An example of a completed stellar system
Once that is done:
11. Deal 1 Starting Faction card to each player
12. Each player may decide to draw again, until everyone is happy with their Starting Faction
13. Give each player:
- All the Ship Counters indicated on their Starting Faction card
- A Ship Card for each type of ship they control
- A set of Faction cards (Rebel/Allied/Rogue/Hunted)
14. Roll dice; highest roll starts
15. Each player takes turns to place some
or all of their ships in a single hex.
16. Placement continues around the table a second time.
At this point, the game is ready to begin, starting with the player who rolled highest.
Change Status of Planet Rolled
no Crisis anywhere:
Status changed to Crisis
Status changed to Need
(If already Need, becomes Crisis)
Change Faction (optional)
Can select one of the other Faction cards to modify scoring conditions.
Move One Fleet (Max. 3 Ships)
May move other player’s ships in fleet if they are willing of Captured.
May carry out one Raid:
Locate ships, if necessary (see below)
b. Roll Attack Dice; 5 or 6 = Hit
c. Each ship can take Hits = Dice; defender decides which dice are lost.
d. Either (or both) players may retreat one hex,
otherwise continue rolling Attack Dice
Player may remove any Need or Crisis counters on the planets
they have ships at, and scores any points they have earned
during their Turn.
- Short game = 10 points
- Long game = 20 points
Each other player gets one more Turn after the first player has reached the target score.
Placing Ships into Hexes
It is important to understand how Ships are placed in this game:
1. The first Ship in a hex goes in the centre
2. Any subsequent Ships go along the outside edges; these are considered to be in a Blockade position.
In the picture shown, the Allied General
has a Destroyer in the centre of the hex, and three Destroyers in Blockade
Each Faction can have a Ship in the centre of any hex (so the most number of Ships in any hex is 12 – one Ship of each Faction in the centre, and six Blockading ships, which could belong to any Faction).
In this picture, the Rebel and Alliance player each has four Ships in the same hex.
Where is a Blockading Ship?
When a Ship is in a Blockading position, there must be a Ship of the same Faction in the centre of the hex. For the purposes of movement, the Blockading ship is treated as being in the same hex as the Ship in the centre.
In some instances, a Ship in a Blockading position could be in one of two different hexes. This happens if both the hexes that border its edge have a Ship of the same player in them. When this happens, the Blockading Ship can be treated as being in either hex. The controlling player always makes the decision as to which hex such a Ship is in.
There are 3 Suns to choose from – the players can decide randomly, or by mutual consent which Sun to use. The differences between the different Suns is discussed in the Hexes section.
Each game will have between 1 and 3 Gas Giants, because of the way they are selected.
If a game has fewer than 3 Gas Giants, not all hexes will be used in setup.
Ordinarily, there are two rounds of placement. Each player can add their Ships to any Hex on the table that has room. Every hex can have any number of Ships belonging to different factions in the centre, but there are only 6 Blockade positions (edges) and all factions ‘share’ these spaces.
Medics: the Medics
Guild gets an extra round of placement after everyone else.
Smuggler: the Lone Smuggler Captain may place her ship in the first round, then move it somewhere else in the second round, if she wishes.
Die Roll, Needs & Crisis
Each Planet hex always has one of three Status conditions:
- Normal: there is no counter present.
- Need: there is a (yellow) Need counter present. Certain Factions will
score points for removing this counter in the last phase of their turn.
- Crisis: there is a (red) Crisis counter present. Certain Factions will score points for: (1) removing this counter in the last phase of their turn (2) having a ship present at Planets with a Crisis
The Status of one Planet changes at the start of each player’s Turn, during the Die Roll phase.
If there are no Crisis counters on the
board, then the die roll will place a Crisis counter.
If there is at least one Crisis counter, place a Need counter.
However, if the Planet rolled already has a Need or Crisis counter, its Status changes to the other kind. That is, if you roll a Planet which has a Need counter on it, change that Planet to having a Crisis counter.
If a number is rolled for which there is no Planet (for instance, there is no Planet 3, 4, 17 or 18 in any game) ignore the Die Roll and place no counters.
After resolving the die roll, a player has
the option on their turn of changing Faction.
They may become:
In general, they keep their original scoring conditions and abilities, but will gain additional scoring conditions for their new faction.
Rebel Commander/Alliance General: when these change faction they lose their ability to score points for destroying Allied or Rebel ships respectively. They only have these abilities when they have no additional Faction card, or if their Faction card matches their original Faction.
Faction cards can make any player Rebel or Alliance. Even the Alliance General can become Rebel, and the Rebel Commander can become Allied. However, no Rebel player (whether the Rebel Commander, or Rebel by Faction card) can become Allied directly. They must first become Rogue or Hunted; then they may become Allied.
Whatever a player’s current Faction, they can change to a new Faction next turn. However, no Rebel player can become Allied directly, and similarly no Hunted player can become Rogue directly.
Note that other players do not affect these changes. The Rebel Commander has no control over who becomes Rebel, and the Allied General equally has no control over who becomes Allied!
Once a player has taken on a Faction with a Faction card, they may never go back to not having a Faction card.
Every time the player takes their move, they move one Fleet. A Fleet is defined as up to three Ships which depart from the same hex.
The Ships moved can belong to a different player, if they are willing, or if the Ship in question has been Captured.
The slowest Move of any Ship in a Fleet determines how far that Fleet can move. The move costs are as follows:
- It takes one move to enter into any hex.
- Additionally, each Blockade a Fleet runs (each hex-edge they cross with a Ship placed upon it) takes one move.
A Ship may not move somewhere if it has insufficient Movement i.e. if your Fleet’s movement would terminate at a Blockade, that is an illegal move and cannot be made.
Rebel: the Rebel player may move two Fleets. The second Fleet movement cannot involve any Ships involved in the first Fleet movement.
Here is an example of a move:
The Lone Smuggler Captain moves her freighter from its starting position.
The destination is the far side of the Alliance Ships.
Total move: 1
Enter second hex (move cost 2; one for the hex, 1 for crossing the blockade)
Total move: 3
Total move: 4
There are several types of hex:
- Yellow Sun, Gas Giant: these hexes may never be entered by any Ship, but because their edges are also the edges of other hexes they can be Blockaded.
- White Dwarf: Ships may enter this hex, but may not remain here.
- Gas Giants: Ships may enter these hexes, but they may not remain here.
- Planets: each Planet has a number by it. This determines when Need and Crisis tokens are positioned. Any Ship in the centre of a Planet Hex is considered to be ‘at the Planet’ and can remove Need or Crisis tokens at the end of the turn. (But not every faction scores for doing so). Ships in the Blockade positions around a Planet are not at the Planet and cannot remove Need or Crisis tokens.
- Asteroids: any Ship entering an Asteroid hex ends its movement immediately.
- Space: these have no special properties.
Each player may declare one Raid after they have finished moving:
Ships in the centre of a hex can Raid a
single Blockading Ship on the edge of their hex.
In this picture, the Rebel Destroyer can Raid the Alliance Destroyer on the hex edge between the two hexes. No other Ships can be involved in this Raid.
Ships that occupy a hex with other ships may Raid all the other Ships in that hex
- In this picture, the Rebel player has moved one Destroyer and two Carriers into the neighbouring hex (a move of 2, since it costs one to cross the Blockade).
Because the Rebel player gets two Fleet movements, they can actually move all four of their Ships into this hex.
All 8 ships will be involved in this Raid.
However, with a total Fight of 5 versus a Fight of 8, the Rebel player is likely to get creamed in this Raid.
Third party ships may choose to participate in same hex raids, if they are in Blockade positions around the hex.
If multiple players are involved in a Raid, each player decides which player’s Ships are damaged by any Hits they score.
Alliance General: the Battleship has a special ability allowing it to participate in any Raid that takes place in any hex neighbouring its position. This makes it exceptionally dangerous. This ability can be used to assist in a Raid, or to initiate a Raid. Either way, whenever the Battleship is involved, it is a legitimate target for anyone else participating in the Raid.
The Lone Smuggler Captain and Gang of Brigands have special abilities that allow them to escape enemy raids.
Whenever a Ship says ‘requires X Moves to locate’ this means a player may only involve that Ship in a Raid if they have Ships with a total Move value equal to or in excess of that value in the same hex.
For example, a Raider requires 5 Moves to locate at Planets, or 7 at Asteroids. Therefore, 2 Cruisers (Move 3) can locate the Raider at a Planet, but it takes 3 Cruisers to locate it at Asteroids.
Roll Attack Dice (Resolving Raids)
Basically, Raids involve a lot of dice being rolled (one for each point of Fight for the ships involved), with each player trying to roll 5’s and 6’s in order to remove enemy dice.
It is not necessary to determine where damage is caused until the end of the Raid, which happens when one side has no dice left, or either player Retreats.
At the end of the Raid, each player looks at how many dice they lost, and compares this to their ships. Damage after one Raid does not carry over into future raids. All Ships are considered fully repaired after each Raid.
It is possible to take lost dice on bigger Ships in order to prevent loses.
For example, the Rebel Commander sends two Destroyers up against the Allied General’s Battleship. At the end of the Raid, the Rebel Commander has lost 3 of his 4 dice, and the other player has lost 2 of her 6 dice. The Rebel Commander must lose one of his Destroyers, but the other can retreat safely. The Battleship can happily absorb the 2 dice of damage.
Tip: never purposefully Raid if you will have fewer dice than your opponent. If you enter with the same number of dice, you will have a 50-50 chance of victory. To give yourself the best chance of victory, move as many ships as possible into position! If you don't have enough firepower to win in a toe-to-toe fight, consider engaging in ship-to-ship Raids instead.
After each round of dice in a Raid, either or both players may Retreat.
A Retreat is an extra Fleet movement of 1 move, to a neighbouring hex. Because this is a move of 1, the Fleet may not pass through a Blockade.
If there is a blockade around all edges, or around all edges that do not lead to Suns or Gas Giants (i.e. there is nowhere that can be retreated to) the retreating vessels are destroyed.
Note that this is a way to get an extra 1 move; the player must survive at least one round of dice before they can Retreat, however.
When a ship which is marked with an asterisk on its Ship Card is ‘destroyed’ (i.e. loses all its dice) it is Captured by the other player. Captured Ships are removed from the board and given to the player who Captured them.
Captured ships can be moved to other locations, simply by moving any of the Ships present when it was Captured to another hex, then returning the Captured Ship to the board at that hex. Ignore the Move values of Captured Ships; the Fleet moving the Captured Ship moves normally, irrespective of the Move value of any Captured Ships it might be transporting, and the Captured Ship does not count towards the 3-ship limit for Fleet movement.
If this is not done, the Ship is returned to the hex in which it was Captured at the end of the Capturing player’s next turn. (That is, the player who has lost the Ship must have one turn without this Ship).
Lone Smuggler Captain: because the Smuggler has only one Ship, she effectively loses her turn when her Ship is Captured. However, she may still roll the dice and change the Status of a Planet.
It is possible to ‘Capture’ one’s own ships. For instance, the Medsat has a Move of 0. The only way it moves is if it is Captured. Therefore, the Medics Guild player can use an Ambunaut to ‘Capture’ a Medsat, then move it to a new location on their next turn. This is called Towing. Note that you must use your Raid to Capture a Ship.
The following are the special abilities of Factions:
1 Point to take a second Turn
This allows the Smuggler to discard 1 Point in order to take a second Turn. Note that they may only take a second Turn, they may not then use this ability to take a third Turn.
get 3 initial placements
This is described in the rules on Placements, above. In essence, after everyone else has completed their Placements, the Medics Guild player may have one more Placement. (This allows them to place each of their Medsats in a different hex).
Move Two Fleets
The Rebel player can move up to 6 Ships, in 2 separate Fleet movements. The same Ship cannot participate in both Fleet movements.
See rules on Locating Ships, above.
Turn: Rebuild all Raiders
While the Secret Base survives, the Gang of Brigands player may skip their entire turn (including the Dice Roll) to place all their Raiders back on the board at the Secret Base.
Turn: Rebuild 1 Ambunaut
The Medics Guild player may skip their entire turn (including the Dice roll) to place one Ambunaut in the same hex as any Medsat.
Destroyed, Place 1 Need
If a Transport is destroyed at a Planet, place a Need counter at that Planet.
If there is already a Need or Crisis counter at that Planet, or the Transport is destroyed somewhere other than a Planet, the player who controls the Transport may place a Need counter at any Planet that does not already have a Need or Crisis counter.
Destroyed, Place 1 Crisis
If an Ambunaut is destroyed at a Planet, place a Need counter at that Planet.
If there is already a Need or Crisis counter at that Planet, or the Ambunaut is destroyed somewhere other than a Planet, the player who controls the Ambunaut may place a Need counter at any Planet that does not already have a Need or Crisis counter.
The Medics Guild player may use this ability any time a Raid occurs in a hex where a Medsat is located. In effect, the Medics Guild player may cause any Raid to immediately stop. Any damage already rolled is applied, but otherwise the Raid simply stops and there is no Retreat.
Sacrifice to negate Damage
If an Ambunaut is in the same hex as a Raid, the controlling player can ‘Sacrifice’ the Ambunaut after any round of dice rolling. All damage caused by any side during that round of dice rolling is ignored.
The Ambunaut’s other ability (to place 1 Crisis when destroyed) does apply in cases where the Ambunaut is Sacrificed.
engage in Raids in neighbouring hexes
The Battleship kicks ass in seven different hexes at once. If it engages in a Raid in a neighbouring hex as a third party participant (see Raid, above), players may choose to apply their damage to the Battleship, even though it is not strictly in the same hex.
The following is a breakdown of each of the scoring conditions:
= 1 Point
If the player has a Ship at a Planet with a Need counter at the end of their Turn, they may remove the Need token and score 1 Point.
= 1 Point
As above, but for Crisis counters.
Blockade = 1 Point
If the player makes a move which crosses a Blockade, that is worth 1 point. If they make a move that crosses two different Blockades, that is worth 2 points.
Transport = 1 Point
If the player engages in a Raid which has 1 or more Transports involved, they score 1 Point for each Transport involved. They do not have to destroy the Transports to score the points.
Any Ship = 1 Point
As above, but the ships can be any kind. Ships with this ability (those of a player who has changed Faction to ‘Hunted’) are an attractive target to other players. A player who destroys such a Ship scores points equal to the Fight value (number of dice) of the Ship destroyed.
Alliance/Rebel Ship = Points value
The Points value of a Ship is equal to its Fight value (number of dice). A Ship is considered Allied if the controlling player is Allied, and is considered Rebel if the controlling player is Rebel.
Turn = 1 Point
This is the basic scoring ability of the Rebel player. They will score 1 point if at the end of their turn they have a Rebel Ship in the same hex as a Crisis. Ships in Blockading positions are considered to be in both their neighbouring hexes for the purposes of determining if they are in the same hex as a Crisis.
If there are no Crisis counters, no points are scored. If there are multiple Crisis counters, the Rebel player need only have a Ship at one of them.
(Ships belonging to other players who have become Rebel via a Faction card do count for the purposes of determining a Crisis Turn).
Turn = 1 Point
This is the basic scoring ability of the Allied player. They will score 1 point if at the end of their turn they have an Allied Ship in the same hex as a Crisis. As above, Ships in Blockading positions are considered to be in both hexes. If there are no Crisis counters, this is also worth 1 point. If there are multiple Crisis counters, however, the Allied player must have a Ship at all of them.
(Ships belonging to other players who have become Allied via a Faction card do count for the purposes of determining a Crisis Turn).
The most likely rolled planets are hexes 10 and 11, therefore these will be the centre of attention in most games.
The least likely rolled planets are the Terrestrial Trinaries (5 and 16), followed by the Terrestrial Binaries (6, 7, 14, 15).
Players can only remove Need and Crisis tokens if they score points for doing so. (This may be required in highly competitive groups in order to prevent too much 'Scorched Earth' play).
Manual Setup Variant
After the Gas Giants have been placed, deal
all the remaining hexes to the players. Each player takes turns in placing
hexes during set up.
Any player may ‘loan’ their Ships to other players. This is always allowed by the rules, as any Ship can be moved by consent, and third parties can participate in Raids where they have Ships present. However, to make the game run more smoothly, this variant allows players to formally ‘lend’ their Ships to another player. They may ask for them back on any future turn.
Each game ‘belongs’ to player who is randomly chosen at start (highest roll on 3 dice): the game is that player's story. The game ends when this player reaches the goal score, is eliminated, or decides the game should end. This is an unusual rule, but it allows for more narrative play as the story need not end prematurely.
I'm thinking of making a set of this, depending on how enthusiastic my friends are.
A few comments: this seems to only really be balanced for 6 players, as if you leave one starting faction out it looks like the competition for resources would be unbalanced a little, and then the main scoring methods for some starting factions involve another starting faction (rebel/alliance, merchants/brigands).
I obviously haven't tested this yet but it looks like Medics/Hunted may be a fairly powerful combination, as no-one would get points for destroying/capturing you, and Medsats could initiate raids on ships and then immediately declare amnesty, gaining a point but without taking damage.
I will post again in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future after I have actually played this.
Posted by: Katherine | July 22, 2008 at 12:05 AM
Comments aside, this does look like it'll be awesome fun :D
Posted by: Katherine | July 22, 2008 at 12:07 AM
Katherine: I really like this game, but it is categorically not balanced, no matter how many players you have! >:) In fact, what serves to balance the game is that a player who gets in the lead forces other players to ally against them.
Since the dynamic between the factions is different every time you play, I found this 'flaw' to be quite tolerable - you may need to introduce house rules to avoid imbalance if this is an issue for you.
The Medics can be a little powerful - but they need to be ignored by the other players to gain the edge, as other players can really mess them around by, for instance, towing away their Medsats.
The Alliance and the Rebels have a significant points advantage if they throw themselves at each other and score points... If this happens, other players may have to declare for one side or another to catch up. (Factions with little capacity for battle can be screwed in this scenario).
If you do make a set and give it a go, please let me know any house rules you make up, and many thanks for sharing your enthusiasm!
Posted by: Chris | July 23, 2008 at 09:01 AM
Ah, I get it now. I guess I was assuming the other players would be nice and not interfere with each other very much other than to directly score points, but now I see that interference is much more crucial to gameplay. My group of friends tend to not trust each other for forming alliances, but I guess that that results from playing too much Risk 2210. Will definitely be interesting to see how this pans out and I will certainly post the results here.
Actually I'm more interested at this point to see what ship designs everyone comes up with than the gameplay factor! But that is my creative side coming out. I love that I can make my own set of the game and design all the parts however I want :D
Posted by: Katherine | July 25, 2008 at 02:04 AM
Katherine: You probably have a very competitive group if they don't form alliances easily. In this game, if one player is not to seize an unrecoverable lead, some temporary alliances may need to be formed. It'll be interesting to see how it plays for you!
The real pleasure for me in making this game was putting together the pieces! Not only the spaceships, which were a joy, but spray painting the black hexes and spattering them with white paint for stars. Great fun!
Hope you have as much fun with this as we did!
Posted by: Chris | July 25, 2008 at 07:48 AM